A voluntary public meeting was hosted on 25th May by developer Ressance, regarding the ongoing planning application for four live & work units adjacent to 2 The Firs, Curridge Road.
Present from Ressance were Director Duncan Crooke and Planning Executive Sarah Melton. Ressance is the same developer behind the ongoing outline planning application for two dwellings off Chapel Lane, however this application was not the subject of this meeting.
The application for 2 The Firs, Curridge Road, is for combined four bedroom homes with integrated work space of around 60 square meters, suitable for office or crafts type activities falling under use class B1. The work space would attract business rates, in addition to council tax payable on the domestic part of each property. The mixed use of the property would be defined under planning and/or section 106 conditions, making it (in theory) difficult for the work space to be absorbed into the domestic dwelling at a later date.
The remaining land around the four properties (largely woodland down the Western boundary) would be owned jointly by the four properties under a newly formed management company.
The estimated sales price of each property was stated as £600-650k, with a desire to fall under £600k to qualify for the government's "help to buy" scheme (although to the audience this seemed largely irrelevant as the scheme is only open to first time buyers). The developer claims that the low sales value of the business part of each property is uneconomic to build, so the reason for choosing this type of development in this location is clearly driven by other motivations.
The site is outside of, although adjacent to, the permitted development boundary in the village. The idea of live/work units is that they can bring economic benefits to an area, however it was acknowledged by the developer that no specific need had been identified in Curridge, either in terms of economic prosperity or a queue of small businesses looking for this type of property. When challenged specifically if the live/work unit application was merely an attempt to increase the chance of approval over a purely domestic development, the developer denied this to be the case but offered little further reasoning and conceded that previous successful live/work units in West Berkshire were often outside the settlement boundary.
The application has already hit a number of obstacles, such as objections from West Berks tree officer and Highways department. WBDC have confirmed that that the application is against their current planning policy. WBDC also stated that each work/live unit must have five car parking spaces excluding garage spaces, so the scheme has been altered during the consultation period to remove double garages from each property in favour of additional outside parking.
Residents present at the meeting identified concerns with the development of a green field site outside the permitted development boundary, over the architectural design of the buildings against the adjacent properties, and that approval of this development would open the floodgates with regard to other sites in the village. It was noted also that this development may bring in new residents without young families because of the work element of the new properties, thus not offering a benefit to the long term sustainability of the village primary school, and there was scepticism regarding the enforceability of the work space given the evidence of existing live/work units and other non habitable developments in the village.
Against this background, it seems unlikely that the application in its current form will be successful, however all residents are invited to send further comments to WBDC regarding this application as soon as possible. The application documents and comments received already can be found at: http://planning.westberks.gov.uk/rpp/index.asp?caseref=16/00744/FULD
Ressance stated that they would be willing to undertake another public meeting to discuss the plans for this development, should the application be taken further, and pledged to communicate any arrangement to the wider community via Curridge Residents' Association. The CRA have requested that any future meeting also provides coverage of their application for a development in Chapel Lane.
Chris Cholmeley - Chairman, CRA